Good Team at Switchbackr
Requipper Spotlight: Climber Ethan Pringle
Updated: Jul 23, 2021
The Requipper team sat down with climbing pro Ethan Pringle to talk about how he got into the sport and what he's most psyched about moving forward.
When did you start climbing?
I first started at the Touchstone gym in SF mission cliffs in the fall of 1995. It was pretty much love at first climb. I had always been scrambling around and jumping in the outdoors–I already skied and snowboarded. I spent a lot of time in Sierra, Tuolumne, and Gold Lake on camping trips. I didn’t realize that vertical technical climbing was really a thing. As soon as I understood what it was I was like, yes, this makes sense. I was stoked on the sport aspect of it, and once I started doing junior comps that’s when I really felt like I was going to be a lifer more or less. I was super interested in the culture, players, history and improving as much as I could to be the best I could be.
What do you like about climbing?
I think it’s hard to pick a favorite aspect or discipline. I would say what initially made me fall in love with climbing was just the feeling of moving my body confidently over a stretch of vertical terrain. It was the joy of the movement. Of course being outside with friends or in remote places is amazing too. What first drew me to climbing was just the joy of climbing itself and the challenge of trying something really hard.
When did you know you could go pro?
When I started doing youth comps I had going pro on my radar. My first year I realized I needed to get a lot better to win Junior Nationals. I did get a lot better and won the following year, and then I won the next three years in a row. At that point I was like, OK, I think that I can compete with the best climbers in the world, at least in my age. I loved climbing so much and I knew that there were people that made a living from it. As soon as I knew about pros I wanted to do that.
That image of glamorous climbing didn’t exist when I started–some people lived on the road full time, but so few of them lived anything close to a glamorous lifestyle. They were these dirtbag climbers that made tiny amounts of money from sponsors and lived in the back of their pickup truck. Then maybe they’d find a dingy apartment in Vegas with four other smelly dirtbags, and that was more how it went.
For amateur-pro people that is still sort of how it is, but there is this whole new demographic in climbing: people who can afford to do the van life thing and have sweet tech jobs. There weren’t wealthy climbers in the late 90s or very few. The ones that did have money lived in cities. The more glamorized and romanticized image of the traveling climber didn’t really come into fruition until five or ten years ago.
What are you most proud of?
I think the one that comes to mind first is Jumbo Love just because it was the biggest psychological battle that I've ever undergone.
Mike and I did a first ascent in Greenland in 2012 that stands out too. It took 3 days to do and I was awake the whole time, on this big wall unclimbed tower. That was probably the most memorable ascent of a rock that I’ve ever had. The climbing went up to 5.12- but was just totally epic in a different way. It was phenomenal, the whole experience of climbing the wall with Mike. Getting to top out on a beautiful unclimbed formation that no one else had ever stood on top of was something I'll never forget. We saw the northern lights the last night on the wall. I was on a state of ketosis because hadn't eaten for a whole day.
When have you been most scared on a climb?
I tried to flash this slightly dangerous single pitch trad climb a few years ago and there was a crux about a third of the way up the route that was really committing. I only had one really good piece of gear below me. I didn’t want to commit to the move so tried to place this piece really high above me that I knew I wouldn’t be able to place. My foot kicked out after the thirty seconds I spent in this crack trying to place this piece, freaking out.
The girl I was dating at the time tried to get me to do it. "What’s the worst that could happen," she said. I fell and my leg went behind rope. I had never had that happen before. I flipped upside down and fortunately the piece I placed below me held, but if it had gone out I would have gone head first into the ground.
That day really taught me that if it feels like my fear outweighs my psych then I need to listen to that and not go for it. Sometimes climbing does have risk and you have to be really psyched–it has to outweigh fear in order to do those things with confidence.
Who are your role models?
When I was starting out I really respected Chris Sharma, like everyone else in my generation. I got to meet him and hang out a little bit over the years so that was cool.
He was always the best, but beyond that, he was always super friendly and would take time to talk to everybody, it didn’t matter who they were. I, and everyone else, really admired him for that. His skills on the rock were unparalleled and so effortless looking, but also he just is a really nice guy.
What's next for you?
Would love to climb one specific hard boulder in Vegas that's a V14. A few people have done it in the last year but it's pretty hard for me. I'm psyched to try. I switch focus a bit to sport climbing and trad in the spring.
Ethan is proud to be sponsored by Touchstone Climbing, Mountain Hardwear, Mad Rock Climbing, Gnarly Nutrition, Send Climbing, Friction Labs, Hilx, and DMM.